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Trusting God In A Time of Transition

By Hannah Spaulding, USA

Three years ago, I began my college career at a small Christian college called Calvin College. I had a lot of anxieties in the beginning—moving to a school far from home, not knowing anyone, making new friends, etc. But by the second semester, I was well-adjusted and praising God for a good first year of school and for the friends He had provided me with.

 

Experiencing God’s Grace

In February, however, I received some bad news from my parents. My dad’s autoimmune disease, as well as lingering arthritic pain from a car accident many years ago, was worsening, and he might no longer be able to do his current job. This would mean a drop in our family income, and we might no longer be able to afford the high tuition at a private Christian school.

My parents offered me a choice: even though the job change was not certain yet, did I want to transfer to a different school for next school year? Specifically, they asked me if I wanted to transfer to Purdue University, a large public school in my home state of Indiana. Purdue would be much cheaper since it’s a public university and I would be an in-state student.

My first answer was an emphatic “no.” My boyfriend attends Purdue, and from visiting him I knew that Purdue was the exact opposite of what I wanted in a school. Where my small Christian school had winding walking paths and a campus filled with beautiful trees, Purdue had crowded crosswalks and a campus filled with year-round construction. It was large and loud and nothing like the kind of college I had always envisioned myself attending.

It turned out that God graciously provided the finances necessary to stay at Calvin for another year. I was able to stay at the school I loved while getting used to the idea of a possible transfer.

 

Remembering God’s Faithfulness

My father, however, did have to leave his job. Our family went through some ups and downs as my dad tried to become healthier and find other work he could do, and I had to start thinking more seriously about transferring.

I looked into Purdue’s program for my major and made an official visit to the campus. I also began to consider the possibility of attending the same school as my boyfriend—which would mean we wouldn’t have to be in a long-distance relationship anymore. I started praying, and the more I prayed and thought about it, the more interested I became in transferring to Purdue.

But I had so many questions. Could I successfully transfer my class credits halfway through my college career? Would it cost an extra year or two of school? Where would I live?

What if I made an irreversible mistake?

During this time of uncertainty, I looked back at how God had provided in the past. Despite my anxiety prior to college, God had been with me, and the transition to college went better than I expected. God also had provided the finances necessary for me to stay at Calvin for my second year.

While I still struggled with doubts and hesitations, these reflections gave me hope. Though at the time I still worried about whether or not Purdue was the right choice, I tried my best to trust God, knowing that He had provided for me in the past, and would continue to do so.

 

Trusting in God’s Provision

It was at this particularly difficult time that God provided for me in a completely unexpected way. One of my biggest worries was finding somewhere to live at Purdue. I didn’t want to live in the dorms with a random roommate; I wanted to live somewhere that was going to be positive and feel like home.

As I explained some of my worries to my dorm mentor at Calvin one day, she reminded me that I needed to trust God and that she believed God would provide for me during this transition. I realized she was right and acknowledged my need to trust God in my heart. As soon as she had left my room, my phone buzzed with a text from someone I had met on a visit to Purdue. She wanted to know if I still needed somewhere to live.

This friend connected me with another friend, someone who needed one more roommate for a four-girl apartment. Not only would all my roommates be Christians, but they also turned out to be kind and sweet people that have been a great help during my transition to Purdue. Their willingness to be friends and welcome me has made a huge difference as I’ve adjusted to living at Purdue.

After seeing God provide for me in such a direct way through that text, I was able to let go of many of my anxieties about transferring. While I was still nervous to see how my classes would transfer, I realized I could trust God, and that if He provided me with somewhere to live, He would also provide regarding my academic record.

 

Now I’m facing the end of my first semester at Purdue. This semester has gone better than I ever could have expected. Not only do I have great roommates, but I’ve also gotten involved in a Christian group my boyfriend is a part of. Many of the people from that group have come alongside me to support me and love me during this time. I’ve seen and experienced Jesus’s love through them. Over and over again I’ve been reminded of God’s goodness this semester.

Though the uncertainty I’ve dealt with for the last year has been difficult to hold, I’ve learned the importance of trusting God and allowing Him to direct my life and shoulder my burdens. Again and again I’ve been reminded of this verse; “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

May you also experience the transcendental peace of God in whatever transitions you are going through this season.

Why Am I Taking a Gap Year?

I must admit that when I first decided to take a gap year, I might have started off on the wrong foot.

You see, I was giving different reasons to different people—depending on who asked. To the friendly taxi driver, I was taking a year off school to work. To my parents, I was not ready to enter university since I had no idea what I wanted to study. To Christian friends and mentors, I needed the time to get back on track with God and to serve Him in Christian organizations.

That got me thinking. Why didn’t I have a confident and consistent answer? Was it because I didn’t have a concrete answer? If I were to be honest with myself, what reasons would I have come up with?

I graduated from a local polytechnic with a media-related diploma two months ago. I should have headed for further studies right after that, but months earlier, halfway through my last semester, the thought of taking a gap year had crept into my mind.

In case you didn’t know, a gap year is an intentional choice by a student to take a year off school to work, volunteer, or travel. It is mostly done before or after one enrolls in university. A couple of my friends were taking this long break. One wanted to spend her time backpacking round Europe, and another had planned to go to Thailand with a non-profit organization to help in animal conservation efforts. Others were looking at taking up internships to help them decide on what to study in university.

My friends all seemed to have legitimate—even noble—reasons for wanting to take a gap year. My motivations seemed to pale in comparison; I felt like I was the only confused one.

In the two months that have passed since I started my sabbatical, I have come to realize that my motivations were rather selfish. I had wanted to take a break after three years of studying in the polytechnic. The late nights and tight deadlines had left me with little time to relax and I was utterly exhausted. The idea of having more time to myself for such a long period sounded fantastic. Also, I had finished a six-month internship with a local newspaper and found that I preferred working to studying.

Reasoning with myself and my parents, I argued that I didn’t know what I wanted to study in university—hence I needed the time to “find myself” and figure it out.

However, I was aware that taking a gap year would mean a very long break from school. My sabbatical would in fact last 1½ years, because my academic year ended in February this year and God-willing, my university course would only begin in August next year. To make sure I used my time more wisely, I was determined to learn a new instrument—the ukulele.

All these reasons were not necessarily wrong, but did they truly glorify God? Where was God in my decision-making process? I had prayed to ask God what He thought about my gap year, but I had not actively sought His reply. When I lay on my bed to pray every night, was I asking God to bless my plans or was I asking God for His plan?

Such thoughts lingered in my head when a sister-in-Christ challenged me to rethink my motivations for taking the sabbatical. She suggested that as Christians, our motivations, thoughts and actions should be very different from that of a non-believer.

I reflected on how I spoke with God every night and realized that often, I wanted blessings and not direction from God. It was the wrong way to pray. The deliberate act of choosing to be stuck in limbo was probably due to selfish reasons on my part. They reflected my personal inward desires instead of God Himself. However, I believe God can still use this time to teach me many things—if I am willing to listen.

Reading a recent devotional on Romans, I was very inspired by how Paul allowed the Gospel to shape his whole person. His identity, mission, relationships with others, and convictions were so aligned to the Gospel. It challenged me to think about how I should let God use me, and how much more I need to surrender my life to Him.

So far, in the past two months, I’ve spent my time serving with Singapore Youth for Christ to gear up for an evangelistic event in June. My interest in writing has also led me to join YMI as an editorial intern. However, even though I’m doing “Christian” things, I know it is still important for me to pray constantly for God’s guidance.

I still don’t have the answers to many of the difficult questions I’ve asked. However, I pray that I will continue to seek God first, to ask for His direction instead of His approval. May I learn how to discern what my personal desires are, and what God has called me to do. With 16 more months’ sabbatical to go, I hope to make decisions that will make God happy instead of those that will make me happy.

I can only plan so much for my gap year. But I am convinced that if I let God plan for me, He will give me far more than I can ever ask or imagine.